The chimes of “Juley!” still ring in my ears and a content smile comes on my face, thinking of those peaceful eyes and warm cheerful smiles. Juley means ‘greetings’ in Ladakhi. Everyone greets each other by saying ‘Ju-leyy’ in a way that almost sounds like a sweet song! 🙂 This simple sweetness of the people, stunning scenery and the adventures on our bike ride through 3600 kms of Himalayas, and I’ve fallen in love all over again with life and travelling!
It’s been a month since I got back from an awesome road trip to Ladakh, and I still haven’t found enough words to describe what I saw or felt just being there! It takes a while to get over the solitude and the overwhelming scale & beauty of these Himalayas! Enchanted by the clear blue skies, unrealistic moon-like landscapes, beautiful ancient monasteries and the jaw dropping night skies, I still dream of those timeless peaceful moments… it is truly the most divine place on earth!
This was my first bike trip to the Himalayas and it was euphoric – ride of a lifetime! I’ve realized that there is not a better way to travel and experience these mountains than on a bike, with close friends. It’s quite a challenge in this rough terrain as most parts of the road are above 13,000 ft and the distance one can cover in a day depends on the road and weather conditions. It’s quite a thrill to ride but I was fortunate to sit pillion and enjoy the view. 🙂
Itinerary of the trip: 20 days
Delhi to Kargil: Delhi – Anantpur Sahib – Jammu – Srinagar via Zoji La Pass to Drass – Kargil.
Kargil to Zanskar: Kargil – Parkachik – Rangdum (Suru Valley) & back to Kargil. (The road goes till Padum in Zanskar)
Kargil to Leh via Srinagar Ladakh highway: Kargil – Lamayuru Monastery – Likir Monastery – Alchi Monastery – Leh (Leh Palace, Thikse Monastery)
Leh to Nubra: Leh via Khardung La Pass – Diskit – Hunder – Turtuk and back to Leh.
Leh to Tso Moriri: Leh – Upshi – Chumathang – Mahe bridge – Tso Moriri – Tso Kar.
Pang to Delhi via Leh Manali highway: Pang – Sarchu – Keylong – Manali and back to Delhi.
We started our journey from Delhi and chose the Srinagar – Leh route, as the accent to the higher Himalayas is more gradual from Srinagar than going from Manali to Leh. Here are some more reasons to choose this route. Crossing cities, towns, villages, mountains and meandering rivers we drove for 10 -12 hours a day and stopped by sunset wherever we found a descent place to tuck ourselves in a warm bed. Taking breaks in between to take photos or sip on chai, admiring the view of the glorious vista surrounding us and acquainting with the place & people. Wandering and exploring each day, it was a nomadic life that I loved!
Settlements become more remote as you go deeper in the Himalayas, but Jammu & Kashmir (J&K) Tourism has bungalows and guesthouses in most places, and there are home-stays too, which give simple food (dal, egg & rice mostly) & hot water for bath, a luxury in most of Ladakh. Homestay is a unique way to experience the culture & people of Ladakh. The people are warm, friendly, helpful and generally happy.
It’s a sensitive area as it’s near the international borders of India and an Inner Line Permit is required to visit most places, which can be obtained from Leh. The roads are in very good condition at some places like Nubra valley and Srinagar – Leh Highway and all the army areas, but in some places there’s barely a dirt track. The roads are constantly being constructed or repaired by BRO (Border Roads Organization).
Ladakh is a high altitude cold desert mostly barren, desolate and harsh yet sublimely beautiful – a paradise for photographers. Wide-angle lenses are a MUST and so are polarizing filters, to filter out the reflected light. Also, while framing landscapes look for something to compare the size of the gigantic mountains with. Take a tripod and a remote switch, if you are interested in night photography. The night skies in Ladakh are as magnificent as the landscapes in the day! Make sure you have enough memory cards and extra batteries, as at some places the temperature is sub-zero, which makes the batteries discharge sooner.
A few pictures from the trip. For more pictures of Ladakh on Flickr.
Ladakh is ‘the land of high passes’, breath-taking landscapes, pristine lakes and gorgeous monasteries in the Himalayas. Travelling through this idyllic beauty of the mountains, peace & tranquility, warm-hearted people and the hair-raising adventure was the most unusual, ‘out of this world’ experience I’ve had – a dream trip to the roof of the world! 🙂
This piece is a part of a series on my travels to Ladakh, other posts – Smiling Faces of Ladakh – heartwarming people of Ladakh and Hidden treasure of Ladakh – prehistoric Rock Art that dates back to 3000 BC! I managed to capture some special, adventurous moments from my travels to the Himalayas in video, watch wild Himalayan dogs run along our bike in Ladakh, crossing over fresh water streams in Zanskar, riding through beautiful lush green Suru valley and as Kiangs cross the road before us in Hanle.
37 Comments Add yours
beautiful place to visit
Awesome post and great pictures dear,Thanks for sharing
Thanks a lot Ankita 🙂
Looks like an amazing experience. Beautiful photography of your trip. Doesn’t look like there would be a lot of gas stations along the way. Do the locals use camels and donkeys for transportation?
Thanks Beth, Yeah there aren’t petrol stations at all places, but only at the bigger towns like Kargil and Leh. So one must carry jerry canes of fuel along for some parts of the journey. Yes donkeys are still used in some remote areas, but for transportation of goods mostly. And camels are there only in Nubra valley as its a dessert.
It’s a unique and unforgettable travel experience! Must go if you get a chance 🙂
Absolutely breathtaking! I have books at home on Ladakh and if I still have a bucket list after all years of travelling – Ladakh is on top of it. Thank you for sharing. maybe one day…
Thanks a lot Ann 🙂 This was my first trip to Ladakh and it’s an achievement for me. For anyone who loves travelling & the mountains, this is must visit, at least once. Cheers!
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Wonderful journey and great shots !!!
Excellent photos. Love to visit this place
Spectacular shots! Certainly a dream destination!
Thanks Madhu 🙂
I am in love with Ladakh. Can’t wait to go back
Thanks Nupur 🙂 Totally! I am definitely going there again! Hopefully soon!
wow ritu… this i think is a big deal… congrats… and though i know it must have been back breaking… im stupidly jealous of u :)…. and thats a lovely picture story too… super ritu
Thanks Jit 🙂 Yeah! It was back & bum breaking :p But got used to it after a few days, but ya with a back problem is difficult on bike. I am definitely going there again, maybe next year and please take some time out and come along! 🙂 We’ll take a jeep also this time, so we can trek/ tent anywhere. You can take some brilliant black & white photos that you love 🙂
Absolutely beautiful! Thanks for sharing your journey with us.
I can see this would be an unforgettable trip ! Fabulous photos .
What an adventure. Thanks for sharing it with me – stunning post and amazing photos. Just wonderful. And I have never heard about Ladakh before.
More wonderment….I am SO jealous, ritu! 😉
When I first read your first sentence, about a bike trip in the Himalayas, I immediately thought to myself, Wow, she’s game going on a bicycle…..ha ha ha! You see, I’d have said a motorbike trip….LOL. Never mind.
You have taken some wonderful photos, which show it would be a geologist’s delight to visit and try and work out how those mountains were formed. Desert beauty at its finest. Wish I’d been there….
These pictures are amazing! Thank you so much for sharing. Must get myself there asap. 😉
mam…killer shots…bow…and hats off! amazing…lovely…awesome!
Ritu – I was just speaking to a friend about your blog. It’s been a while since I’ve visited. Love the new posts. Even though I wasn’t there, this trip is truly special in my mind. Thanks for the amazing pictures.
Hii Beautiful post, your pictures and experiences are so inspiring to all bike riders. I can see that this trip is planned very well in detail. Due to my busy schedule, keep it up…
Ladakh first caught my attention a few years ago after watching 3 Idiots. Then the more I read blog posts about Ladakh on the internet, the more I am convinced that it is a special place indeed. Stunning shots, Ritu! And the bike ride sounds so much fun!
Ride of a lifetime and I watched with my eyes wide open. Stunning photographs. My mind flashed back to my own journeys. EPIC
😀 Thanks a lot! Coming from you it’s a great compliment! 🙏
Stratospheric! What a trip, and your descriptions of grandeur and awe, timelessness really ignite the imagination. Stunning photos, Ritu.